(MOSCOW) — North Korea says it’s ready to resume international talks on its nuclear program, Russia’s foreign minister said Thursday as Moscow sought to raise its profile in the international standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke after meeting with Choe Ryong Hae, a special envoy for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who earlier this week gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a letter from Kim.
North Korea has wanted to resume talks for a long time, but the U.S. Japan and South Korea say it needs to honor its previous commitments first to shut down its nuclear programs.
Lavrov said Kim’s letter confirmed a desire to expand bilateral ties and “cooperate on settling the problems that still remain on the Korean Peninsula.”
He said Pyongyang is ready to restart the six-way nuclear talks involving both Koreas, as well as the United States, China, Japan and Russia. The negotiations on dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear program have broken up over Pyongyang holding nuclear and missile tests.
“Pyongyang is ready for the resumption of the six-party talks without any preconditions,” Lavrov said.
Without naming any country, Lavrov also warned against a military buildup in the region “along the bloc lines,” an apparent hint at military cooperation between Washington and Seoul.
Russia’s ties with the communist North soured after the 1991 Soviet collapse, but have improved under Putin’s watch. Moscow has previously sought to help mediate the nuclear standoff, but its diplomatic efforts have had little visible effect.
Lavrov also said Pyongyang is considering a Russian project to build a gas pipeline and a power line to South Korea via its territory.
State-controlled Russian Railways has modernized a North Korean cargo terminal and conducted a pilot project shipping Russian coal to South Korea, Lavrov said. Russia is also considering linking its Trans-Siberian railway with the Trans-Korean railway, he added.